Where do they fit all those missiles?!
Stop me if you've heard this before: a top-down dual-stick "bullet hell" shooter set in a faux ultra-military world, with a very generic name and that seems to come out of the goddamn blue. Gatling Gears fits that description to the letter, but even so, it's a great game.
[image1]In the prologue, we meet Max and Julius, two war buddies just starting their mech-suit training. Sooner rather than later, the evil enemy faction attacks the empire base and chaos ensues. In the resulting battle, their foe stands defeated, with Julius wishing to annihilate the remaining enemy villages, leaving Max with no choice but to desert the army. Years later, living low with his niece, Max is forced to jump back into his tank in order to put an end to the empire once and for all.
Gatling Gears is pretty much what you'd expect from this sort of shooter. The left stick controls movement while the right one is used for aiming and shooting an infinitely shooting gatling gun. You're also able to use missiles and grenades, along with a limited weapon of mass destruction for those "oh, crap" moments.
Bullets fly all over the screen, but thankfully the controls are very responsive, letting you quickly dodge just about anything if you got the skills. If you're anything like me and are terrible at this sort of game, you'll probably like that you're able to upgrade your walking tank with everything from stronger shields to more powerful missile launchers. The way you update your character's attributes is also directly tied to exploration. By stepping into the pirate shop set at the beginning of every area, you're able to spend gold bars that you collect during the stages in four categories.
[image2]The scoring system in Gatling Gears isn't just for show. By destroying enemies, you pick up gear bits that add up to a combo counter, which in turn multiplies your score as long as you remain untouched. For every certain amount of points you earn, experience is granted and can be used for cosmetic touches to your tank, like paint jobs, a pet, and various pieces of flair.
Side by side with the main campaign is a survival mode, a standard wave after wave enemy attack in a closed-off arena. The mode is challenging and features three maps. There's the option for both online and offline co-op for the two game modes too, which is a welcome addition if you're trying to complete this XBLA arcade game in hard mode.
Vanguard has managed to develop a pretty good-looking game that is also one of the better arcade games available. The scenery and characters are absurdly colorful and animate very well, with bullets, explosions, more bullets, and more explosions ripping suburban neighborhoods into smithereens. The destruction and chaos look beautiful and there's hardly a hint of slowdown. There are also some hints of their previous game Greed Corp in certain parts of Gatling Gears; in particular, levels where the ground caves in, thereby creating alternate paths.
Gatling Gears is the definition of an unexpected surprise. It's got a completely generic concept, but its execution is exceptional. This is a little game that's worth spending a few hours with, though the replay value is shaky with the $15 price tag. Still, there's lots of charm and plenty of challenge to be found, whether you're going at it alone or with a friend in tow.